Redeeming Christmas

We are waiting this Christmas season.  Waiting not for a present, not for snow, or the lights to go up or anything like that.  We are waiting for life.  We are waiting for our baby to come into this world.

We have done the Advent readings over the past several years, but we have always been really bad at keeping up with them.  This year is different.  The timeline of our child’s birth parallels that of Mary.  The different areas in scripture prophesying a child resonate with us as we wait for our baby, the best Christmas gift we can have.

When I was a teenager, Christmas lost a lot of meaning for me.  I would get trucked around to different family gatherings and Christmas parties, ending up celebrating Christmas six or seven times and getting completely burnt out.  It ended up being about the food and the presents, but not about a little baby in a manger that eventually grew into our Savior.

God is using this journey of pregnancy and birth this year to redeem Christmas for me.  Since we are waiting for baby to come, we are scaling down and keeping it simple.  We are lighting the advent candles (though we are a week behind…), we are spending time with family as we can, and we are focusing on birth and life, both our child’s and our Savior’s.

Jesus Holding Baby

I have been tempted several times over the last few days to get impatient.  Impatient with waiting, impatient because I want to meet our child, impatient because I’ve configured my scheduled perfectly over the next two weeks to correlate with the birth of baby, but baby isn’t here yet.

When that impatient feeling comes, I just have to remind myself that this baby will come when it is ready, when the time is right, when the fullness of time is complete.

I step back and remind myself that we are walking the same walk that Mary and Joseph walked.  Jesus was born on the day he was supposed to be born.  Our child will come at the right time.

So we wait patiently, contentedly, and with great anticipation.

Christmas is different this year in a very good way.  Thank you God for blessing us with this coming gift and helping to redeem this season.

-Hank

A Brief Return to Eden

The garden of Eden showed us the perfect union between man and woman.  There was no sin, no jealousy, no unrighteous anger, and no grudges.  Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed.  If that isn’t a perfect marriage, I’m not sure what is.

Then, it all changed.  The serpent invaded the garden, tempted Adam and Eve, who then sinned against God, therefore destroying perfection.  As a human race, we have been striving to get back to that perfection ever since.

In marriage, there are opportunities to return to Eden, even if it is for a brief period of time.  Those times when a husband and wife can just get away from the normal routine, leave the kids with the grandparents, and go reconnect, then return better for it and better able to lead their every day lives.

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We had that opportunity for our anniversary (4 years strong!) in October.  This trip almost didn’t happen, but the Lord put it on our hearts that we needed a get away.  We had originally planned on going to Boston to enjoy the fall foliage in the northeast.  We procrastinated getting our plane tickets until about a week and a half before we were planning on leaving and the prices sky rocketed.  3/4 of our budget would have been spent on plane tickets which didn’t leave us much else to explore with.

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So, we did what normal modern day American couples do.  We added up our Southwest points and researched where that could get us.  The finalists were Little Rock (Arkansas foliage isn’t bad, though not quite Boston), Oakland (a little Indian Summer with some turning leaves and Redwoods), and Denver (cool temperatures and beautiful scenery).  After a lot of discussion and a few almost cancellations, we decided on Denver.

What a wonderful decision.  We found a direct flight at 630 in the morning on a Friday and a direct flight back at 7pm on a Monday, giving us 4 full days of rest, relaxation, and reconnecting (R&R&R).

It ended up being incredible.  We had a lot of great conversations, uninterrupted by a screaming child.  We were able to discuss deep topics that had been on our hearts for a long time.  We got to do fun adult things we enjoyed, like browsing through a used book store, listening to a soul band at a bar, and walking around the old country downtown of Grand Lake, CO with rain drizzling down on us without worrying about our little man freezing to death.

We took naps, we were able to enjoy eating out without rushing through the meal and keeping Everett happy.  It was a very slow, relaxed pace.  We had no agenda; we just figured out what we wanted to do as we were arriving at our destination.  We knew we didn’t have to do it all because just being in Colorado at that time of year was enough, especially since we were together.

Graciously, God gave us a glimpse of Eden.  We were able to exhale after a few crazy weeks and inhale a renewed love in our marriage.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Listening to a funk band at a small town local bar and grooving on the dance floor with old people
  • Taking naps
  • Talking in the car and having actually deep conversation
  • Driving 2 miles above sea level together
  • Eating amazing breakfasts and way too much food
  • Enjoying God’s beautiful creation and seeing the different beauties of our nation
  • Staying at a romantic bed and breakfast
  • Biking around Denver together (and seeing the Denver library!  Yes we are nerds)
  • Standing in a park and watching the incredible sunset

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As parents of young children, we don’t get these opportunities very often.  When they come, we have to take advantage.  And take advantage, we did.  I can’t wait for the next one! And a big shout out and thank you to my in-laws who kept our little man the entire weekend!!! The trip would have been impossible without your loving sacrifice. Thanks for having the energy and willingness to be “extreme(ly Awesome) Grandparents.”

-Hank

God Made Sex

God created sex.  Way back at the beginning of the Earth, he created Adam.  He saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so he created Eve for Adam.  He created them for each other, to compliment each other, to fit together, both physically and emotionally.  This was the first marriage, the first union, the first time a couple in love has sex on Earth.  Sex was supposed to be pleasurable for both Adam and Eve.

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God inspired the writers of the Bible to talk about sex.  Solomon’s book, The Song of Songs, speaks about sex a lot (see chapter 2, verses 16 & 17, chapter 4, chapter 5 verse 1, chapter 6 verses 2-9, and chapter 7 for examples).  God delights in seeing a married couple love each other and consumate that love.

Why then, since this God blessed thing in the beauty of marriage, have we as the church, made sex dirty and bad?  Why are kids and teenagers just told, “Don’t have sex!” then, when they get married, sex is suddenly okay?  Why don’t we teach our children the beauty of sex, how God created it, and how the enemy is trying to destroy it?

When we tell our kids, “Don’t have sex!” this can lead to two things.  The first, as I already mentioned above, is that sex get’s a bad rap.  Kids see it as dirty, dark, and bad.  Yes, they know it’s something that happens in marriage that allows other kids to be born, but it isn’t something that is celebrated.

The second thing that can happen is that a kid (see, teenager) will rebel against his or her parents and seek out to have sex, not knowing a lot about it or the actual beauty of it in a loving, marriage relationship.  He/she will pursue it for the simple act of sex.

Approaching sex this way leaves so much out.  Yes, sex is pleasurable, but it is also centered around love, commitment, and relationship all in a marriage.  Sex is meant for two people for life.  Having sex with multiple people before marriage is destructive.  You leave a piece of yourself with each person you have sex with..  Without the love, without the commitment, without the relationship, it just becomes about the act, the climax, the pleasure, and that’s not how God intended it.

I didn’t know a lot about sex before we got married.  I didn’t know about emotional baggage that can come from your past even if I was still a virgin.  I didn’t even know how to romance my wife properly.  Sex was talked about maybe once or twice in youth group Sunday School, but I was never properly educated about it.

God is good, though.  He knows that sex is a battleground.  He wants for us to take sex back from what it’s become.  He wants his children to have great sex in their marriages.

God gave us two AWESOME resources we read before we were married.  Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge is an absolute must read for any married couple.  It has an entire chapter on the beauty of sex, but also on how the enemy attacks it and puts fears in us and tries to steal the beauty and pleasure out of it.  The book speaks about marriage as a whole and is a great read.

The other is Sheet Music by Kevin Leman, which is also a must read for any married couple.  If you use your imagination with the title, you can figure out the whole book is about sex and everything surrounding it.  He has a chapter specifically teaching men how to properly romance their wives.  I learned that for a man, we are ready to go anytime.  For a woman, there must be buildup and romance that takes place before hand (see doing the dishes, talking, turning off the game and spending time together, etc.).  This was very important knowledge for me.

I believe as a church, we have to take back sex.  Talk about sex.  Teach about sex.  Make it part of marriage classes, make it part of church services.  Teach youth about it, using discretion of course, and equip parents with how to teach their kids about it.

I’m already nervous about how to talk to our kids about sex, but with a lot of prayer and discussion between Kelsey and me, I believe God can give us the right words to show them the beauty, the importance, and the sacredness of sex and why it is important to wait for marriage.

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Sex is about a man and a woman loving each other, being vulnerable together, giving strength (for the man) and beauty (for the woman).  It isn’t shameful and shouldn’t be portrayed that way, in the marriage context.  As the children of God, let’s embrace one of the most beautiful things he created about us.

-Hank

Music To My Ears

While I was flying today, I was listening to some good old ’90s country (some of the airplanes I fly are equipped with XM Radio).  Several songs came on that, even though I first heard them twenty years ago, I still had the words memorized.  It got me to thinking, music has strong ties to memories and certain eras of my life.  Certain songs trigger that special synapse in my brain, instantly bringing back memories from that time and place.  I can almost literally trace my life through music.

Born in the USA  by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

When James and I were 2 or 3, we were dancing machines.  We lived in Selma at the time and most every night, we would have a dance party in our living room.  My dad was/is a big classic rock fan (Springsteen, ZZ Top, Bob Seger to name a few).  He would put a cassette on the stereo, crank it up, and we would boogie down.  Once the song ended, that was our cue to collapse onto the floor, only to jump back up to start dancing again once the next one started.

You Shall Go Out With Joy  by Richard Irwin

When I was 6 or 7, our family “turned away” from evil, worldly music and dove headlong into Christian music, which wasn’t very artistic in the early ’90s.  Heck, the lyrics weren’t even that thought out.  But, it did give glory to God!  I remember my mom playing Maranatha music cassette tapes in the car while we drove around San Antonio.  I don’t even think this is a Maranatha song, but it just stands out in my mind.  I still remember the lyrics to this day!

Ain’t Going Down Till the Sun Comes Up  by Garth Brooks

As a 10 year old, living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Garth Brooks was my idol.  Not only did he go to college in Stillwater (Oklahoma State), but I got to drive by his house whenever I went to play basketball (it was right across from the YMCA).  I’m pretty sure at one point, I owned all of his CDs (cassette tapes were almost a thing of the past).  This was probably his most popular song in the mid to late ’90s (back when country music was more than just about getting drunk and partying with rednecks).  I heard it the other day and actually thought about the lyrics and what he was saying.  It’s a good thing I was naive as a 10 year old, cuz I certainly didn’t know what “he’s anticipating” and “the truck was rocking” meant!

Jesus Freak  by dc Talk

For either my birthday or Christmas when I was 12, my aunt sent me the Jesus Freak album and the Welcome to the Freakshow live concert video, both by dc Talk.  My life was instantly changed.  Up until this point, I was country music to the core.  Echoes of Christian music Maranatha cassettes were still rattling around in my head, but my tastes had matured enough to know there was better music out there.  Then, suddenly, I had the Jesus Freak album in my hands.

For those of you unfamiliar with dc Talk, Michael Tait, Toby Mac, and Kevin Max made up quite possibly the most popular Christian band in the ’90s and early 2000s (they broke up and pursued solo careers in 2000), if not ever.  When I first heard the opening guitar strains of “So Help Me God,” my musical life was forever changed.  I wouldn’t go back to country until fifteen years later.

So Selfish It’s Funny  by Showbread

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All of 5% of you have probably heard of Showbread.  By the time I was a junior in high school, I was dedicated to listening to only Christian music.  The nice thing was, this covered a wide variety of musical sub-genres underneath the genre behemoth of Christian music.  During the second half of high school, I needed some rock music.  Showbread (a Christian screamo band, and no, that isn’t an oxymoron), came on my radar with this particular song, off their No Sir, Nihilism is Not Practical album, which evokes memories of driving my stick shift Toyota Truck around Anderson, Indiana, listening to my satellite radio and thinking I was pretty cool.  Skillet, Dead Poetic, Underoath, and Demon Hunter were pretty high on my list at this time too.

Talk  by Coldplay

I was way behind everybody else in getting into Coldplay, roughly 4 years or so.  By the time I started broadening my horizons and realizing that “secular” music wasn’t evil, Coldplay already had released X&Y, but I was just getting into Parachutes.  I was working for my grandad as a handy man during a summer in college in San Antonio, fully head over heels in love with Kelsey (though I wouldn’t utter those words until about 9 months later and she hadn’t even agreed to go out with me just yet).  Those opening guitar strains in Talk always shoot me back to driving around Alamo Heights in 2008 waiting for Kelsey to get back from Europe.  My grandad still blames Kelsey for my lack of concentration in my work that summer.

I Cross My Heart  by George Strait

George Strait

When I started going steady with Kelsey, I quickly learned I better get listening to country again.  Her family was a family of two-steppers and German polka-ers from deep in the heart of Texas.  This was our wedding song, the one we had our first dance to.  We had to practice some, because at the time, I was not a very confident, nor very good, two-stepper (we have taken dance lessons since!).  I still remember floating around the dance floor at our wedding, just us, staring deeply into each other’s eyes, more in love then we ever had been before.

Come Thou Fount  by David Crowder

We read somewhere that it is good to sing to your baby in the womb.  When we got pregnant in Washington, we decided we wanted Everett (though we didn’t know his name at the time, let alone that he was going to be a he) to have a hymn as his song.  We would sing it to him in the womb each night, then, once he was born, it would be his goodnight song.  We had it playing when he was born in the delivery room (though, he gave us a few false starts and we had it on repeat just enough for Kelsey to want to throw the computer out the window).  I still remember seeing him for the very first time, seeing he was a boy, and being absolutely overcome with love for him.

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I guess you could call this my Discography, huh?  Music has been a major part of my life.  I like good music.  I appreciate good music.  Music ties me to a place and a time and, much more than pictures, gives me those permanent memories that come rushing back when the opening chords of one song or another filter through my speakers.

-Hank

Unexpected Blessings

April came and we celebrated our precious boy’s first birthday. It was a low-key event -just a picnic with family at the same exact park, at the same exact table where my siblings and I had our birthdays growing up. Everett was a little tired by the time we got to cut the cake so he was less than interested in it. But he loved all the attention and family, as well as getting to chase after the ducks.

It was a few weeks later when I started to get an inkling. I got dizzy when I stood up a few times and was a little less energetic than normal.

Hank and I started to wonder if maybe I wasn’t expecting again. We certainly hadn’t been trying to get pregnant. We are still in a little apartment, had hoped to be in a house or at least have a one and a half year old before we started to think ahead to another baby.

So, we were actively preventing the chances of getting pregnant. And yet, there I was, and neither of us could remember when my last period was… So we started to dream, and wonder, and I tried not to freak out. Another baby?? In this apartment?? How in the world?!

Several weeks after I got the inkling, and after taking three positive pregnancy tests, I decided to go in and get an ultrasound to see how far along I was. The technician scanned my belly and there was the wee one. I couldn’t help but cry. This baby who had not been planned, who had caused a lot of worry, was so precious. Just seeing our little one who at the time was 7 weeks and 4 days old, reminded me once more that God’s plans are much higher and better than my own. Now that we are here, growing another life; and now that I once more get the chance to participate in the divine miracle of co-creation, I see that all my small worries are nothing in comparison with this privilege. Sure, we will probably still be in an apartment. But, as my dad said, babies are small. He or she will fit right in. We had Everett smack dab in the middle of the bed in his own little tray for the first four months and we loved it.

So, we will make it work. We will wait and see what God has planned for us in the area of housing. I know that He knows our needs. I am a bit like the persistent widow in my repetitive asking for a house…

Now we are 19 weeks. I can hardly believe how fast its going. This pregnancy has already been so different. Rather than the awe-tinged-with-fear that accompanied my first pregnancy, I know more what is normal and I don’t worry as much. I haven’t had much sickness and that caused a little nervousness because I feel so different from how I felt with Everett. But I have also been incredibly thankful for how great I have felt. I have a quiet, peaceful awe now. I am trying to soak it all in. One never knows what the future holds and this pregnancy is a privilege for sure.

We aren’t finding out what this wee one is. It will be a surprise just like his/her brother was. But this week Hank checked out a baby names book from the library so we now have five months to argue.. I mean discuss names.

The Backroads

I have a tendency to stress out a lot about being late.

I have gotten better about this, realizing that life isn’t over if we’re a little late to church.

I used to stress myself out about being late in high school and college.  I always made it a point of being on time.  If I was even 5 mins late, then my stomach would turn in knots and it would take me half an hour to settle in to wherever I was.

Kelsey and I went on a road trip about a month and a half before our wedding in 2011.  We were going to end up at a friend’s wedding in Pennsylvania, but we decided to make an excursion out of it.  We stopped along to the way up and back down to see college and high school friends scattered throughout the country.  It was great for us as a couple, because that was the first solid time we spent one on one for an extensive period of time.  We read a few marriage books, discussed marriage a lot, and just discussed what life would be like together.

We also discovered that we liked to enjoy our road trip, rather than put the pedal to the metal to get places.  This meant we would take a nice leisurely lunch, stretch our legs in the afternoon, things like that.  We ended up at places around dinner time, which was perfect.  That left us time to eat with whoever we were staying with and time to visit afterward.

This was all fine and good until the day we were supposed to end up at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding.  We drove from Anderson, Indiana to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is supposed to take about 8 hours.  Well, for us, it ended up taking 10.  Then, when we got to Lancaster, we couldn’t find the place where the dinner was at.  This led to a lot of stress as we were already an hour late, then we couldn’t find the dinner.  There was a little bit of conflict.  I finally stopped to ask for directions, which I should have done in the first place.  Turns out the sign blew down and we drove by the place 5 times.

The next day at the wedding, we were talking to an older couple we had met.  They were really sweet and still very much in love in their late 60s.  We told them how stressed we were the day before with being late and getting lost.  The wife gave us some very, very good advice.

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She told us then whenever she and her husband went on road trips, they always made it a point to take the backroads.  They weren’t concerned about arriving at the destination, they wanted to enjoy the journey.  They knew that whenever they arrived, that would be the pre-ordained time for them to get there.  The old, you’ll get there when you get there.

We realized that was a great outlook to have on life.  Enjoy the journey.  Don’t rush to the destination or you’ll miss out on something.  Take the backroads.  See the beautiful countryside.  You’ll arrive at the pre-ordained time, regardless of whether you are “on time” or not.

Kelsey, Everett, and I just got back from our first family vacation, a road trip to Indiana again for my high school reunion.  It was a lot of driving, but we took the mindset of enjoying the trip, rather than speeding to the destination.  If we got car weary, we just stopped and stretched out.  If Everett got fussy, we turned on Sesame Street.  We made the journey just as important as the destination.

I don’t stress out as much about being late to social events anymore.  I still stress out about being late to work, but that’s to be a little understood.

Take the backroads.  You’ll discover a part of the world you haven’t seen before.

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-Hank

Thi

The Battle

Shadowy creatures hovered beyond my firelight,
Circling my camp, waiting for a chance to strike.
Their scaly wings dipped into the light,
Revealing scaly fingers stained blood red.
Their unhuman voices never quieted in their chatter,
Spitting out fear and weakness for me to drink,
Hoping to hit me in the heart.

One would let fly with an arrow,
Shot from the darkness into the light;
It would burst as soon as it left the dark.
This was quite a company here tonight;
The scouts had finally found me out.

They had been trailing me for many a fortnight,
Several small bands commencing a few attacks.
They had me on the run and I was terrified.
Until only a weeks worth of moons ago,
I felt I could stand no more
And defeat was at my door.

What changed in me, you may ask.
Nothing in me, I would answer you.
But, who is beside me is the true change.
A Spirit joined me, not of earthly man flesh,
Not holding a sword and shield, mind you,
But he held my heart in his strong grip.

My strength returned and I turned to fight,
Taking on these bands each night.
I grew weary, for I must move in the day,
Finding good ground to fight once darkness falls.
These purely evil creatures cannot stand the sun,
For it eats their black, textured skin,
Burning holes straight through to their black hearts.

Once I drew my sword, my enemy grew in number,
Hoping pure quantity could overrun me.
This was the largest legion tonight, and my light grew dim.
I had only managed time for a small fire this night.
Once it extinguished, they would move in;
The fight would then begin.

Suddenly, a great ruckus occurred behind me,
One that had not touched my ears before.
Clanging, screaming, and death sounds all came to me.
I wheeled, sword ready for what may come.

There was a crash to my right; to my astonishment,
A man was in my circle of light.
He was a seasoned warrior, carrying many scars,
Along with a few fresh wounds and an arrow in his armor.
With no word spoken, he set his back to mine,
Waiting for the light to go out.

Yet another noise, a cranking and turning and squealing and neighing
Causing several figures to flap their wings away.
Two horses appeared, tall and fierce, pulling a young warrior in a chariot
Lit by four torches.

He too said not a word
But threw the torches on the fire,
Causing the light to last a little longer.
His hand came on my shoulder
And I lay down to sleep between the two
With the spirit standing over me.

Another hand touched me and my spirit renewed.
I glanced at the fire to see it’s now small glow.
It was time for our stand,
To once and for all drive the enemy away,
To shake the gates of hell to their core,
To take back what was stolen from us.

We did not wait, we three warriors,
For the light to finally die.
We charged into the dark,
Taking the enemy by surprise.

Spinning, slashing, our swords going to and fro,
Back to back, never leaving the others’ sides,
Never leaving an opening in our wall.
With each swing, my sword hit home,
An eery scream came with each plunge.

The enemy did not sit idly by,
Recovering from our surprise to stage a counter attack.
We had the advantage, for the chariot driver came prepared.
He lifted a torch from his cloak,
Lighting it in one swift motion while making it airborne.
The field was momentarily full of light,
Burning the enemy, though not fatally.

The moment was what we needed,
For we moved back toward the chariot,
To use all our resources.

The driver whipped the horses,
The veteran and I fought all comers.
We heard the crunch as the horses crushed the demons,
Their blood staining the brown horse hooves.

There was no pause in the battle;
We were attacked from the sides, the back, and the air.
I was wounded, but could not feel the pain.
We did not fear death this night,
We only fought for those we loved,
Those we lost, those that cared for us.
The fallen warriors along the road were on our minds,
For we swung our swords for them, as well.

The night seemed it would not end;
Exhaustion set in to our bodies,
But we kept fighting, for if we stopped,
We died; death was not on the docket this night.

We raced forward to I know not where,
Toward the sun, I hoped,
But instead, I soon discovered,
We were going straight for the enemy lair.

Further up, further in we went,
Shouting, swinging, killing.
We were going to end it this night,
For all that came before and all that were to come.

The dark walls loomed high in the moonlight,
Swallowing any light to be seen.
The enemy grew more courageous with it’s castle in our path.
We had one more surprise, that they did not know,
A ball of light hid many years ago
With this great chariot driver,
Whom I had recognized from legends of old.

The gates stood closed as we approached,
The legion dropped back for they believed we were finished.
They knew not our plan to finish them instead,
For their power came from what lay in the dark walls,
The very thing we were about to destroy.
We were able to breath, but knew the task ahead.

As we came to a halt in front of those big, black gates,
We could feel hot breath on our faces.
It seemed the very castle itself was alive and evil.

The ball was wrapped at the driver’s feet;
The veteran and I lifted it to our shoulders,
To the gate we would go.
Curious screams arose from the legion,
But they dared not approach,
For they believed this was not our season.

The breath blew at us, but we pressed forward,
Removing the covering from our great weapon.
As the light shone, the screams turned to anger,
But the legion could not approach,
For fear of burning.

We fell to our knees and cried to our Father,
Asking him to do what we could not.
The spirit walked by as we set the Son down,
Running for the chariot,
As the walls would soon fall.

West we went,
With the thunder behind us;
The mightiest explosion our ears had heard.
We cried in victory,
Our fight was over.

We crossed the river,
To our new lives of peace,
Grieving those who died,
Seeking what we achieved.

-Hank

Second Chances

There have been two major stories in sports over the past few months concerning star athletes and addictions.  Johnny Manziel, the second year quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, was the first, voluntarily checking into rehab for alcoholism in the beginning of February.  2010 MLB MVP Josh Hamilton had a cocaine relapse, self-reporting the incident to the MLB Commissioner in late February.

As someone who is fighting an addiction myself, I feel for these guys.  Hamilton had an alcohol and cocaine addiction that sent him through some dark times in the early 2000s.  It got so bad that he was kicked out of baseball between 2004-2006.  He found God, though, and put accountability in place to keep him sober (up until last year, he had an accountability partner with him during the MLB season and he never carried more than $10 cash and no credit cards with him).

Josh HamiltonEven though Hamilton has put safeguards in place around him, his demons have never left, as anyone fighting an addiction can attest to.  He had alcohol relapses in 2009 and 2012, then the cocaine relapse earlier this year.  

An addict has triggers.  Part of overcoming the addiction involves identifying those triggers, then coming up with remedy actions.  When a trigger comes, whether it is stress, fatigue, or even a certain smell (the smell of beer, for example), the addict must discipline himself (or herself) to do whatever that remedy action is.  It usually is something as simple as walking away, going to sleep, or calling a friend.  Those simple things can be extremely difficult to perform when in the throws of temptation, until the addict cements these disciplines in his life.  There’s a lot of prayer and crying out to God involved to cement those disciplines.

Hamilton’s team, the Los Angeles Angels, have not been supportive of their player at all.  Even though he did self-report and wasn’t found out due to a failed drug test (see Alex Rodriguez), the Angels have basically cast Hamilton to the curb.  Hamilton isn’t hiding his relapse and, since he self-reported, he’s admitting he still needs help.  The Angels knew his history 2 years ago when they signed him, but they are acting like this is all shocking news to them.  

With the Angels, it’s all about money.  They are due to pay Hamilton $25 million a year for the next three years.  They would rather him be suspended so that they can recoup some of that money.  Give the guy a break, though.  He’s battling a relapse, going through a divorce, and recovering from shoulder surgery.  The least his team could do is stand behind him.  They are also largely disappointed in his lack of production as an Angel (note to the Angels ownership, you won the World Series in 2002 with one of the lower payrolls in baseball.  You now have one of the highest payrolls in baseball and you struggle to make the playoffs.  A bit more fiscal responsibility might help your postseason success rather than throwing money at aging sluggers).

It won’t happen from LA, though, as it is pretty certain at this point that the talked about trade from the Angels to the Texas Rangers is going to take place.  All in all, Dallas looks like a much better place for Hamilton at the moment.

Manziel has a partying and alcohol problem that was well documented from about the first moment we was drafted by the Browns last year.  Everyone knew him as an arrogant hot shot at Texas A&M and most were not surprised by his continued partying once he was drafted.  I was very surprised (and impressed) that he took it upon himself to check into rehab to get his life in order.

Johnny Manziel

The Browns handled Manziel’s situation much differently than the Angels have done with Hamilton.  The Browns have been extremely supportive of Manziel, standing behind him through his rehab stint.

What makes you or me better than Josh Hamilton or Johnny Manziel?  Not one thing.  We should admire these two guys who have come out and said “I messed up, I need help, I can’t do this myself.”  We should be supportive of Hamilton, a brother in Christ (I haven’t seen anything saying Manziel is a Christian), as he strives to not let any hindrance deter him from Christ.  

These guys deserve a second chance, just like we all do.  God constantly gives us second chances every single day by forgiving us of our own sins.  We must extend those same graces to those close to us.

-Hank

Son of a Miracle

I am the son of a miracle.

My dad was diagnosed with abdominal cancer about a month after Kelsey and I got married in 2011.  He had always had digestive troubles as far back as I can remember.  He had made a trip to the ER that summer due to some serious stomach pain, but the doctors were hunting for an ulcer or something.  Nobody thought about cancer.

The pain kept up and finally, in early November, the doctor’s figured out the problem.  He was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, centered in his abdomen.  

I got a phone call from him on my way home from work one afternoon.  I could tell something was wrong when I picked up the phone.  He told me he was diagnosed with cancer, but he was going to do everything in his power to fight it.  He wasn’t going to roll over.  That’s definitely my dad, he doesn’t give up.

Surgery was decided upon to remove the cancerous lymph nodes.  The operation was scheduled about a week before Thanksgiving.  Kelsey and I were praying hard for him, that everything would go smoothly and that all the cancerous material would get removed.  We decided not to go down for his surgery since my brother and my stepmom were there already to take care of him.

I don’t remember how long the surgery was, but the doctors removed 19 (yes, that’s a 1 and a 9) cancerous lymph nodes from his abdomen, a good part of his intestines, his gall bladder, and part of his liver.  It was very major surgery and he was in a lot of pain afterwards.  The doctors visited with him several times over the next few days and they decided he was well enough to go home that same week, the week before Thanksgiving.

Once he got home, he and my stepmom knew something wasn’t quite right.  He was in a lot of pain still (understandable after major abdominal surgery), but there seemed to be new pain too.  He just put up with it for several days, suffered through Thanksgiving dinner and then decided to call it an early night.

Then the hell really began.

He noticed a liquid seeping out of his stitches so he had my stepmom take him to the ER.  Something inside him was leaking and his pain was increasing not decreasing and it seemed to be moving up his esophagus, not staying centered in his abdomen.

After several more days in the hospital, the doctor’s determined that all the surgery had set off his acid reflux which in turn freaked out and started eating away his esophagus.  His pain was almost unbearable.  The doctor’s gave him some pain killers, some heavy duty antacids and sent him home.

He later told me the next several weeks after Thanksgiving were pure hell.  The pain was sometimes too much to bear (and trust me, my words cannot convey the amount of pain).  

Thankfully, slowly, the acid reflux settled down and the pain began to subside.  By Christmas, he had some of his strength back and healing had taken place.  Not only would his body never be the same, but he also had to have chemo treatments the rest of his life because the cancer was still in him.

That was 4 years ago.  He came to Everett’s birthday party a few weeks ago and I just had to take a moment to consider what he had been through.  Just looking at him holding his grandson, you would never know that this man went through all that hell.  You would never know he’s on chemo.  And the chemo is working, too.  The cancer is being held at bay and my dad is able to live normally, work (though I still think he works too hard), and do the things he enjoys.  

God has healed my dad and given him a new lease on life.  Looking at my dad, I’m seeing a miracle walk around.  And I’m the son of that miracle.

-Hank

An Epiphany

I looked up at the sky earlier this week and I God spoke to my heart.

As a pilot, I look at the sky a lot during the day.  I look at the clouds, I look for rain and thunderheads, and I look for patches of blue.  I spend most of the day with my eyes up.

I don’t actually see what’s up there.

I continually say that I want to commune with God throughout the day, to speak with Him and pray more throughout the day, then go on with my day and completely forget about Him.  

He gave me an epiphany that when I look at the sky, I need to open my eyes and see the creator. Every time I look at at the clouds passing across the blue, every time I look at a rain shaft coming down, every time I look at the spectacular sunset, my heart and mind should see God.

By seeing God more and more, I will commune with Him more and more.  I will pray more and more throughout the day.  I’d like to pray continually as Paul encourages us to do.  That will take some time, some disciplining of myself to meet God in the daily, but that is my goal.

I must open my eyes to see what I’m truly looking at.

Sunset

-Hank